The State of Illinois has a $42 billion budget for the next fiscal year.
Governor J.B. Pritzker made stops in Rockford and Peoria yesterday touting what he called another banner session for the General Assembly book ended by passing the budget: “I came into office in 2019 with a promise to meet our most basic responsibility and that is a real, balanced budget. For the third straight year, I will sign into law another balanced budget for Illinois that demonstrates fiscal responsibility, works with a vision of governance that truly values public education, public roads, and public services. Not only that, this budget ensures the loan that we borrowed to fight COVID-19 will be paid back more than a full year ahead of its due date.”
State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer says the idea of a “balanced budget” is relative to which party you talk to in the General Assembly. He says it’s not close to a balanced budget: “The only possible way [Democrats] could say that it’s balanced is because of the one-time federal COVID dollars that are coming in. I believe that the State of Illinois should receive about $8.5 billion of federal COVID money. They spent about $2.5 billion of that, which leaves $6 billion left. We have a $5 billion hole in our unemployment system right now that has to be filled. If we don’t fill it, three things will happen: businesses will have to pay more, workers will receive a lesser benefit, and the trust fund will still run out of money. We have to put that money back in there, and we’ve got to do it now.”
Davidsmeyer says its troubling to see one-time relief go towards long-term programs for the state. State Senator Steve McClure says the entire budget process as well as the entire Spring General Assembly session excluded Republicans: “Every once in awhile, someone who happens to be a Democrat has a good idea. Every once in awhile, someone who happens to be a Republican has a good idea. It’s good to vet these ideas and work together to come up with something that is a better package. Unfortunately, it is one side takes all. The idea of bipartisanship is basically: ‘We want everything that we want to get. You get nothing, and we would like for a couple of you to vote for it.’ That’s [the Democrats] definition of bipartisanship. What we need to do is work together for the betterment of our state, but it’s not happening right now.”
Pritzker says that despite the Republican concerns, the state is a model of resiliency for the rest of the country and that the state’s backlog of unpaid bills has basically been eliminated for fiscal year 2022. The Senate’s 37-21 vote included no Republicans votes in support. Neither did the House’s earlier vote on Tuesday of 72 to 44. One Republican House lawmaker voted “present.”